Diverticulum are small pouches in the lining of the large intestine that bulge outward through weak spots in the muscle wall. Multiple pouches are called diverticula, and the condition of having diverticula is called diverticulosis. The condition becomes more common as people age – about half of all people older than 60 are thought to have diverticulosis.
Diverticula are most common in the lower portion of the large intestine, called the sigmoid colon. When the pouches become inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis.
10 to 25% of people with diverticulosis get diverticulitis. Both diverticulitis and diverticulosis are called diverticular disease.
Most people with diverticulosis do not have any discomfort or symptoms. However, some people may experience:
- Cramps pain or discomfort in the lower abdomen
Many other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and stomach ulcers cause similar problems, so these symptoms do not always mean a person has diverticulosis. Diverticulitis causes inflammation so symptoms become more obvious.
The most common symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain with tenderness in the lower left side of the abdomen. Usually, the pain is severe and comes on suddenly, but it can also be mild and worsen over several days, with fluctuating intensity of pain. Patients may also experience:
- Change in bowel habits
Diverticulitis can lead to bleeding, infection, small tears or blockages in the colon. These complications always require medical treatment to prevent them from progressing and causing serious illness. If you have severe symptoms please consult your doctor.
Diet: diverticular disease was first noticed in the United States in the early 1900s, around the time processed foods were introduced. It’s particularly common in the developed world where low-fibre diets are consumed, so this is considered a major contributor to diverticular disease.
Fibre is the indigestible part of fruits, vegetables and grains that acts like a brush passing through the intestines, preventing constipation by making stools soft and easy to pass. If stools are difficult to pass people may strain during a bowel movement. This increased pressure in the colon may cause its lining to bulge out through weak spots in the intestinal muscle wall. This leads to the formation of diverticula.
Changing your diet can help to prevent or manage diverticular disease – please use the link at the bottom of the page to book a consultation with Smart Nutrition.
Lack of exercise: exercise promotes normal bowel movements and helps prevent constipation. It also promotes good abdominal tone. All of these factors make exercise an excellent preventative tool as well as a factor in reducing the risk of future flare-ups.
A nutritional therapist can help you to put together an appropriate and enjoyable exercise regime as part of your treatment plan.
Food Intolerance or allergies: chronic food sensitivities or allergies can aggravate the inflammatory reactions in diverticulitis, and may contribute to it.
If you think your flare-ups may be linked to a food allergy or intolerance, a Food Allergy or Intolerance Test can identify these. Smart Nutrition can help you to remove the problem foods from your diet and find healthy, tasty alternatives.
Poor digestion and dysbiosis (gut flora imbalance): doctors think that diverticular inflammation may begin when bacteria or stool are caught in the diverticula. Friendly bacteria are very important for ensuring that are stool are properly processed, that our gut lining is healthy and that bad bacteria cannot invade. A drop in the number of friendly bacteria compromises these functions, making diverticulitis flare-ups more likely.
Changes in friendly bacteria levels and other important digestive functions can be tested using a Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis. Smart Nutrition can also help you to optimise your gut flora and minimise inflammation.
Chronic stress: emotional stress can increase spasms of the colon and it’s thought that this can form diverticuli. Stress can also exacerbate constipation and compromise gut flora, weakening the body’s defences against a bacterial infection that could cause a flare up.
If a stressful lifestyle may be a factor in your condition, an Adrenal Stress Test can help pinpoint precise imbalances. Smart Nutrition can help you to address this with diet and lifestyle changes.